Hardwood Products, Luke Brochu honored by Forest Products Council

Contributed Article

    BAR HARBOR — Hardwood Products of Guilford and the former president of Pleasant River Lumber in Dover-Foxcroft were among this year’s recipients of top awards by the Maine Forest Products Council at their annual meeting last month in Bar Harbor.
    Hardwood Products was named Outstanding Manufacturer of the Year and Luke Brochu received the prestigious Alfred D. Nutting Award for his outstanding contributions to the industry.

BU-MFPCAwards-S-PO-40Maine Forest Products Council photo

    OUTSTANDING MANUFACTURER — Hardwood Products of Guilford was named Outstanding Manufacturer of the Year at the Maine Forest Products Council’s annual meeting. Pictured, from left, are Terry Young, chief operating officer; James Cartwright, vice president and one of the family owners, and Brad Deane, wood procurement manager.

    The Hardwood Products award was presented by Gary Keene of Plum Creek who gave a brief, but fascinating history of the company. “It all began as the Minto Toothpick Company back in 1919 in Saginaw, Michigan where Lloyd Cartwright began a small family business selling mint flavored toothpicks,” Keene told the audience.
    Hardwood Products relocated to Maine in the 1920s, then recovered from a devastating fire in 1958 and began diversification into medical and health products despite stiff competition from Chinese firms.
    “Hardwood Products is the only stick manufacturer left in the United States and is the only corn dog stick manufacturer in North America,” Keene said. “They continue to be run by the same family who started the business; and with 410 employees, are the largest private employer in Piscataquis County and rank in the top 100 employers in Maine.”
    Keene noted that Hardwood Products’ wood usage averaged 60 cords per week and today it averages 325 cords per week. “That is only 41 cords of wood usage per person per year,” Keene said. “Compare that to one of our large paper mills where they use over 1,200 cords per person per year. This is an indicator of how specialized they are and the labor intensiveness of the work that goes into their high quality product.”
    Terry Young, Hardwood Products’ chief operating officer, continued the story of the “Chinese invasion.” “We didn’t just roll over and wait for them to go away,” Young said. “We reinvested. We — the company and the family — spent a lot of money and we fought them and we beat them. So we’re proud. And we thank everyone here for their support. The people at Plum Creek have been a wonderful supplier of most of our wood and that’s not to slight anybody else here. With the family tradition, we’re close to 100 years here worth of business. We’ve got 400 plus people in Piscataquis County and we’re an important company and we aim to be there for a very long time.”
    Mark Doty of Plum Creek explained what it takes to win the Alfred D. Nutting award, which commemorates the many contributions to Maine forestry made by Nutting, who was Maine Commissioner of Forestry and a founder of the Maine Forest Products Council in 1961.
    The recipient must have “demonstrated recognized qualities of leadership and integrity as well as a commitment to the values both public and private, generated from the working forest. His or her experience will reflect concern for the sound environmental use as well as the economic value of the forest to industry and to the community at large.”
    “The award has been presented annually since 1990 to a remarkable group of individuals, each of them truly unique,” Doty said.
    “Luke is certainly worthy of joining the impressive list of those who have gone before. He has led multiple industry organizations in the past, including this one. His involvement in Haitian missionary work is incredible; and to top it all off, he’s one of the kindest people that we know.”
    Brochu was president and part owner of Pleasant River Lumber in Dover-Foxcroft from 2004 to 2013. He also served as president of the Maine Forest Products Council from 1999-2001 and is a past chairman of the Board of the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers’ Association.
    Brochu thanked his wife, Pam, his nephews, Jason and Chris Brochu, now co-presidents of Pleasant River Lumber, and all the friends and colleagues who have helped him over the years.
    “I was really taken aback when I received the phone call as to whether or not I’d be a willing recipient of this honor, of such a prestigious award,” Brochu said. “I’m truly humbled. And as I look around this room I see so many familiar faces who helped me find the courage to speak out and be present and accounted for. And it wasn’t easy for me. It was always out of my comfort zone.”

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